Emily Tanner-McLean did not have our recent protests in mind when she began working on her immersive and explosive installation, "For Those Who Have Seen the Elephant," at Inscape Arts earlier this year. Still, the installation fits our current moment. She sewed American flags—made of voile—from scratch in the early days of quarantine, stitching them into a maze-like structure that hangs in a hot little room filled with projectors. Onto this maze, videos of fireworks combusting play in a six-and-a-half minute loop, so that it looks like they are going off right in front of you, right on you.
For me, fireworks have taken on a radically different meaning this summer. They are no longer just associated with a kind of stoic patriotism or a new year celebration, but with the protests that have rocked our city and world since late May. One went off just last night outside the East Precinct, during a protest in solidarity with Jacob Blake, a Black man from Kenosha, Wisconsin who was shot by police seven times while his children watched.
For the past few months, I would instinctively jump whenever I heard a firework go off; my heart racing, reminded of police launching blast balls and tear gas into crowds. But stepping into Tanner-McLean's installation was a totally different experience. It allowed me to confront my anxiety without fear of actual danger.
"For Those Who Have Seen the Elephant" closes this Friday. Reserve your timed entry tickets here—don't miss it.